It's a teaser that teaches. On June 9, 2000, dailies carried an advertisement from the ''Wash Counsellors'', which offered to mail consumers a booklet on How To Buy The Right Washing Machine. Its source: the Swedish white-goods giant Electrolux. Says Anand Bhardwaj, 43, Executive Vice-President (Marketing), Electrolux: ''The idea is to promote Electrolux washing machines in a step-by-step process.''
The booklet seeks to explode ''myths'' surrounding the front-loading washing machines of the sort Electrolux makes. The booklet explains why they give a better wash. Says G. Mahalingam, 29, General Manager, Wunderman Cato Johnson (WCJ): ''We are trying to flag the washing-machine buyer.''
This effort is supported with an ad campaign to promote its front-loading washing machine, the ew-1045F. Direct marketing will also enable it to create a database of potential customers, which will be useful in the case of new launches. For instance, Electrolux launched dish-washers, cooking ranges, and deep freezers this summer, and will soon launch microwaves and ACs. Once it has a database, WCJ will follow it up with mailers and telemarketing. But for starters, the ad campaign must wash with the consumers.
By Ranju Sarkar
Y B E R C A F E S
They could well emerge at the top of the Net food chain. Which explains why a slew of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and dot.coms are beating a path to the increasingly ubiquitous cyber café. Satyam Infoway proposes to set up close to 1,000 izones (its brand of cyber-cafés) in the next one year; tech-portal ITspace has forged alliances with 900 cyber-cafés across seven cities; and ISP eth Dishnet has 69 Dishnet Hub Centres (its brand of cyber-cafés).
The cyber-café's appeal for the typical ISP is obvious: greater penetration. Avers R. Ramaraj, 49, CEO, Satyam Infoway: ''Just as the PCO model has worked for telephony, 'public' Net will boost growth in the Indian Net access market.'' And increase demand for their own service. Even free ISPs can't afford to ignore these Net kiosks. Reason? Their revenues come from advertising, and the large number of people who access the Net through a cyber café make a great audience. Agrees P.K. Vijaykumar, 42, CEO, Caltiger: ''We are working on a software that will display our ad bar on all machines in a cyber café. Then we will build a franchise network of cyber cafés.''
The dot.com-preference for cyber cafés is based on a different rationale: promotion and off-line presence. Says K. Vaitheeswaran, 38, Vice-President (Marketing), Fabmart: ''As most cyber cafés have loyal customers, (a presence there) gives the brand high visibility''. Agrees Pradeep Kar, 41, CEO, Microland: ''Ground promotions (in association) with cyber-cafés will drive customer relationship.'' Some dot.coms use cyber-cafés as part of their payment chain. Thus, customers ordering books on firstandsecond. com can drop off (cheque) payments for these books at several cyber-café's with whom the e-tailer has forged alliances. Will cyber-cafés turn out to be the best way to make Net access available within arms reach of desire?
By Vinod Mahanta
Y B E R C R I M E
Twenty four year-old Mukesh Gupta's resumé doesn't look like a law-breaker's: he is a graduate with the additional qualification of a diploma in Computer Science and a steady job with Nicom Systems, a Delhi-based hardware reseller. Yet, to him must go the distinction of being India's first cyber-criminal.
Gupta's crime? The theft of Net time from one of Nicom's customers, Colonel J.S. Bajwa. The retired armyman had bought his computer from Nicom; so, when he subscribed to a 100 hour VSNL-package in November, 1999, it was natural that he ask the company to help him install his modem and Net-enable his pc. Gupta was the man Nicom deputed to the task.
Like many first-time users, the family didn't bother to change the password-a simple-enough task-and India's first cyber-criminal, and its first cyber-gull were born. Says Bajwa, 52: ''We got to use the Net for all of 18 minutes.'' The retired colonel placed a complaint with the economic offences wing of the Delhi Police.
It didn't take them long to identify Gupta as the main suspect. Says Rajan Bhagat, 40, Assistant Commisioner of Police: ''(Gupta) hasn't co-operated with the investigation, but we have documentary evidence.'' This evidence is in the form of logs of the Bajwas' account. Every computer that is used to access the Net has a unique IP (Internet Protocol) address, and the police claims it can prove Gupta had access to these machines during the times mentioned in the log.
If convicted, Gupta stands to spend three months in jail. Brazens his counsel Ramesh Gupta, 51: ''(Net-time) isn't a tangible property and hence this isn't a theft at all.'' While the law enforcement agencies brush up on their Net basics, Gupta has reason to be happy. Had the it Bill become a law, he could have been fined as much as Rs 200,000. Here's one man who will compose paeans to India's slow pace of policy-making.
By Ashutosh Kumar Sinha
R E A K F A S T C E R E A L S
Going by Kellogg's India's official marketshare, you can't be blamed for thinking that Indians by the droves are switching to breakfast cereals from their favourite puris, parathas or idlis. Five years since its launch in 1995, Kellogg's marketshare has touched 65 per cent. Back in 1995, when it had just launched, it was 53 per cent. But percentages are misleading. Kellogg's 65 per cent share is of a piffling market size: 3,000 tonnes, valued at Rs 60 crore in 1998, according to ORG-MARG.
But growth, not size, is the parameter to note in the breakfast cereal market. When Kellogg's entered India, the market size was only Rs 15 crore. Says K. Venkatachalam, Managing Director, 47, Kellogg's India: ''In a five-year period since Kellogg's launch, the market has grown four-fold.'' In fact, it has been Kellogg's high-profile entry, that has served to grow the market. Before Kellogg's came in, the major player was Mohan Meakin's, which had approximately 60 per cent of a market growing at a snail's pace of 5-6 per cent.
Although Kellogg's has grown its marketshare, it's not as if Indians have overnight changed their breakfasting habits. At Indian homes you will see idlis or parathas and, of course, the ubiquitous milk, biscuits, bread, butter and jam at the breakfast table. Those more affluent may consume readymade cereals, but few do so on a daily basis. The obstacles to growth in this market are forbidding. Breakfast is not a meal that the typical average middle-class Indian has regularly. And, if he does have breakfast, he prefers a hot, sweet or spicy one. ''Indians like spicy food with a sourish taste. In any case, breakfast in India is almost non-existent for the middle-class,'' says Anjali Mukerjee, Dietician and Director, Health Total, a branded health-foods company.
Not surprisingly, bland cereals are way down on the list of preferences. Abundant household help and the variety of Indian traditional fare combined with the high prices of branded cornflakes have limited their penetration to single-digit figures in India. A 275-gm box of Kellogg's chocolate frosties, for example, is priced at Rs 65.
But Kellogg's, which has invested in a state-of-the-art factory in Taloja, is evidently ready for a long haul in India. Says Venkatchalam: ''India is a cereal-eating and milk-drinking country and therefore nutritious and ready-to-eat cereals have high growth potential.'' That probably explains why recently the company has introduced a range of series of variants (all of which are imported), including wheat bran, fruit loops and crispix in the Indian market.
What Kellogg's is banking on is the fact that the Indian consumer is not averse to convenience foods. Note that the penetration level of both biscuits and white bread is almost 100 per cent in urban India. ''Urban Indians want convenience foods and are increasingly eating processed foods like white breads, jam, and chakli for breakfast,'' says Mukerjee,''but awareness that such foods are unhealthy is also rising.'' That explains why Kellogg's uses the health platform to market its products. The company tied up with the Indian Dietetic Association (IDA) to launch a nation-wide public-service initiative to raise awareness of iron deficiency problems. It is also upgrading the iron content in its cereals. Combining nutrition with convenience may be a nifty selling proposition, but given Kellogg's steep price tags, it may be a while before the Indian consumer takes the bite.
By Nita Jatar Kulkarni
O F T W A R E
Eenie, meenie, mynie, mo, which job to pick and where to go? For Indian software engineers, it is again a problem of plenty. In addition to the US of A, which has for long been the mecca for Indian geeks, there is suddenly a host of countries that is laying out the red carpet for them. It is a classic case of demand outstripping supply. Germany needs 20,000 engineers, Japan more than 10,000 in the next three years, Italy 8,000 a year in the next three to five years, while the UK 1.5 lakh. Even the US is increasing its quota of h1-b employment visas.
It's pick and choose time for our boys. One day it is Germany offering easier access through a new green-card system; the next day, the UK announces a fast-track work permit system. And then there are the Japanese, French, and Italians.
But the Europeans may have to do more than just grant green cards to the notoriously pampered software guys. The US is still the country of their dreams. And it is not just friends who pull them there, but also the dream of working in companies like Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, and Sun Microsystems. Easier cultural assimilation and top dollar salary apart, there is the hypnotic effect of the success story of people like Sabeer Bhatia, Vinod Khosla and Gururaj Deshpande. Says Aadesh Goyal, 36, Vice-President (Human Resources), Hughes Software: ''The traffic to non-US countries will grow, but not to the level of the US.''
Language, apparently, is a big turn off. Explains Sanjiv Prasad, 30, Manager, (Human Relations), HCL Technologies: ''In a country like Germany, our engineers have a feeling that they may end up spending more time and money to settle down because of the language. So, they are willing to wait the extra month or so if it means a chance of going to the US.''
Added to it are the higher costs of living in Europe, though companies from there tend to give additional sops. But, given time, Europe may get its due share of the Indian brain curry. Says Pratik Kumar, 35, General Manager (Human Resources), Wipro Technologies: ''If these countries do enough things to make Indian engineers comfortable, the perception will change.''
However, a word of caution: good times don't last forever. ''This demand rush will last another three to five years at the maximum until these countries are able to bridge the gap internally,'' opines Dewang Mehta, 39, President of NASSCOM. More than 80 per cent of India's software exports are now generated from the US. The industry could do well to broadbase its activities. And by then, experts hope, things will become much better in India. Perhaps, by then, the Indian brain curry will also be the most prized fare on the local menu.
By Seema Shukla
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